Earlier this week, we asked these questions on our Facebook page: Do you have a garden? What do you grow in it? Do you use chickens in your garden?
Many people gave their answers. The answers seemed to center around three things:
- disadvantages or problems with allowing chickens into the garden
- advantages or benefits of allowing chickens into the garden
- ways to allow chickens into the garden without suffering the disadvantages
Giving chickens access to the garden can be beneficial because they can help control garden pests, like grasshoppers. Their natural scratching behavior can loosen and aerate the soil and can turn up more insects for them to eat, and they can also cut down on weed seeds in the garden by eating them.
But there are some downsides. Chickens do a lot of scratching and dust bathing, and in so doing, they can uproot small plants or move soil around too much, disrupting beds and garden rows. They also can peck at and eat tomatoes, leafy greens, and other produce.
There are ways to use chickens in the garden to take advantage of the benefits while limiting or preventing the damage. One of the simplest ways, pointed out in the replies we received, is to keep the chickens out of the garden when it is in production, and only allow them into the garden when preparing the garden, or late in the season, when most of the crops are spent. We will describe some other approaches in upcoming articles.